COVID-19 impact: Deserted Thamel and panicked entrepreneurs

99% hotel booking canceled

Sabina Karki

March 7, 2020


COVID-19 impact: Deserted Thamel and panicked entrepreneurs

Thamel, a major tourist hub located in Kathmandu, wears a deserted look. (Photo: Khabarhub)

KATHMANDU: ‘Tasty Spice and Tea House’ located at Kashi Swayambhu Gate Thamel is forsaken.

With the decline in the number of customers, proprietor Krishna Prasad Bhatta’s life has gone monotonous.

Bhatta who has been in this trade in the same place for 10 years has faced such a moment for the first time. A person making his living with the earnings from various spices and organic tea feels the days suffocating.

“There was a decline in the number of visitors after earthquake 2015,” he tried to recall the difficult moments to compare with while speaking to Khabarhub, “the trade had almost come to a standstill for some time then, but this is worse now.”

As every passerby to Basantapur would catch the sight of his tea, he would earn Rs 8,000-10,000 every day, but now his trade has come to a halt.

“Till 2 months back I could earn nearly 10000 rupees every day,” he said, “now, sometimes the day passes sans visitor.”

The entrepreneurs at Thamel had expected this season to be the best due to the inflow of foreign tourists, but their corona smashed their expectations badly.

“I have to pay 30000 as rent, and pay separately for food and others.” Bhatta said, “Now, I think I should go for the closure of the business as none visits this place anymore.”

Thamel, that used to come alive day and night is a deserted sight now. But for a few visitors, the stalls have no life at all.

Economy likely to be paralyzed

With the corona’s grip spreading all around the world, the tourists who had booked hotels and travels have been canceling remarkably.

According to the Chairman of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) Khum Bahadur Subedi, almost 80 percent of trekkers have already canceled their booking.

With this, all the operators, hoteliers have got an adverse impact.

He dreads not only the tourism industry, but the national economy may also reach to extreme negative as the indicators show the economy may see the worst in the days to come.

Likewise, Covid-19 has also adversely affected the expedition of the country. Seven Summit Treks having 200 climbers in this spring seasons, is in a doubt to have a successful expedition.

Thaneshwor Guragain, Manager at Seven Summit told Khabarhub that the climbers are still indecisive about their plans ahead.

“They are in a dilemma whether to visit Nepal or not,” he said.

So far, Seven Summit has got 70 climbers for Mt Everest, 15 climbers for Annapurna I, 12 climbers for Dhaulagiri.

According to Guragain, the clients are from China, Japan, Italian, America and from European nations.

Another entrepreneur, Achyut Guragain, the chairperson of Nepal Association of Tour & Travel Agents (NATTA) concludes that though the tourism sector will be the first target coronavirus will have a butterfly effect and will paralyze the economy.

Nepalis panicked

COVID-19 born in Wuhan China has spread over 84 countries so far. 3,408 have lost their lives and100,277 people are infected by these widely spreading viruses.

Nepal, a yam between China and India is surrounded by the threat of corona spread. China is the source country of COVID-19 and India is struggling to ward it off from becoming much fatal. Both countries have infected people in large numbers.

Keeping the same threat in mind, WHO has listed Nepal as a highly vulnerable country that has hiked the terror of the disease especially in the capital city, Kathmandu.

Though criticized for the late response, the Nepal government has set up a screening desk in all major international entry points.

The council of the Minister has canceled the ‘on arrival’ visa facility provided to the nationals from China, Japan, Italy and South Korea.

COVID-19 has been the talk of the town. Irrespective of their age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status people in every nooks and corner are talking about the coronavirus.

The demand for masks and hand sanitizers has sky-rocketed as they are deemed useful in safeguarding people from corona infection.

99% hotel booking canceled

The worldwide spread of COVID-19 has resulted in the drying of the tourism business of Nepal. With the decline in the number of visitors the hotels, restaurant, lodge business have gone to the earthquake days.

According to Sajan Shakya, the hotels are horrified by the cancellation rate of their bookings.

Key tourist destinations like Pokhara and Chitwan are sans foreign tourists whereas only a few five-star hotels of Kathmandu have some tourists. The tourist inflow in these hotels is hardly 30% these days.

“Due to corona terror there are no tourists in the markets,” Shakya said to Khabarhub, “nearly 90% booking has been canceled.”

He told Khabarhub that May-April is the best trekking season in Nepal however the cancellation has panicked the entrepreneurs.

Sharing that nearly 100 thousand tourists came to Nepal till the end of February, he said, “This is the season for tourism industry, but unfortunately, most of the European and American customers have taken to cancellation.”

According to him, hardly 4 thousand Chinese tourists visited Nepal in February. “But now not only Chinese, the European and American tourists are also declining.”

The COVID-19 fear has posed another serious threat to mountaineering business as well.

In the last spring, DoT collected a total of Rs 495 million from expedition royalty, including Rs 442 million from Everest expeditions. Out of 381 members, 60 Chinese nationals had obtained climbing permits for Mt Everest in 2019.

The government levies $11,000 per person for foreign climbers for expeditions to Mt Everest during the spring season, while Nepali climbers have to pay Rs 75,000 per person.

For other mountains above 8,000 meters, the government levies $1,800 on foreigners and Rs 10,000 for Nepali climbers.

To make the long story short, Nepal’s economy is likely to go through hard times soon.

With the fall in the number of tourists, he fears the hoteliers and others in the tourism business may have to forego a sore trial.

The government should make special plans and incorporate some strategies to rescue this market.